Prong Setting Tutorial

Spring has arrived and with it comes the obligatory cleaning…sigh. Motivated by the warm weather, I decided to organize my workspace to make room for new projects. As I was cleaning, I stumbled across a pair of tiny white geodes. “These would be great earrings”, I thought to myself…and that, dear readers, was all it took for me to begin my latest project…all attempts to clean were swept aside in order to allow time to set these fair stones into prong settings:

This project assumes basic soldering knowledge as well as access to a soldering station.

What you’ll need:

  • A pair of stones of similar color, shape and size
  • 22g silver round wire cut into six (6) 20mm pieces*
  • Earring posts (without pads) & backs
  • Tiny drill bit or center punch
  • Ring clamp or vise

*The 20mm length is based on the geodes, which are 8mm x 10mm x 3.6mm high. Your length can be modified based on the size of your stones, keeping in mind that excess wire will be clipped off

Step 1: Making the setting

Each prong setting will use three pieces of the silver wire. Bend two into a U shape and place the bends facing one another. Place the third straight piece between the two U’s making sure they touch. Using hard solder, solder the pieces together.  Repeat this process with the remaining silver wire and pickle.

Step 2: Soldering the earring posts

Using a tiny drill bit or center punch, make a divot in the center of each piece where the three wires are soldered together. I lightly taper the soldering end of the post with a file so that it fits into the divot. Using a piece of soft solder, attach each earring post and pickle.

Step 3: Adding the stone

Place the earring post in a vise or a ring clamp. Gently push the prongs up, creating a basket shape large enough for your stone. Place your stone and gently bend one prong up at a time so that the prongs are vertical.

Before cutting the excess metal down, ensure you allow enough of the prong to bend over the stone to hold it in like a claw. Once the prongs are at the desired length, file the ends flat and push each prong over the stone, one at a time using a burnisher or other small steel tool. Hold the stone in place while you do this because it will move. Bending opposite prongs helps during this process.

Step 4: Finishing the prongs

To finish, use a grinding bur to flatten the bent prongs. I chose to oxidize these for contrast, but they are just as beautiful left un-oxidized. Tumble for a little shine or wear as is!


PS if you have the time we are taking a survey of our readers, it's a quick 10 minutes.

DIY: April showers tees

“April showers bring May flowers” or so they say. Well, I say make April showers fun with a rain inspired D.I.Y project. The weather is slowly warming up and my kids are longing for those special hours of outside play. While the clouds resisted to cooperate, we spent some time creating these great t-shirts. Kids love getting crafty, so take your little ones, nieces, nephews or cousins (or just your inner child!) and gather your supplies!

You will need:

* A pre-washed t-shirt

* Freezer paper

* Acrylic paint in colors of your choice

Textile medium

* A foam or spouncer brush

* Exacto knife

* Cardboard

* Surface for mixing colors (I use the cover of a take out container)

* April Showers stencil

1. Make your stencil. Click on the link to get the April Showers stencil. Cut a piece of freezer paper to  fit the image's 8.5" x 11" size. Feed the piece of freezer paper through the printer manually as you print the image, making sure the artwork gets printed on the dull side of the paper. Carefully cut out the drops and cloud shapes with your exacto knife. You have made your stencil.

2. Iron the stencil onto your t-shirt. Place the stencil shiny-side down on the center of the t-shirt and press with your iron on the hottest setting. Do not use steam.

3. The part the kids love, mixing colors and printing! Mix 2 parts acrylic paint/ 1 part textile medium. Textile medium is great because you can use acrylic paints to paint, stamp or print on fabric without having to spend a big budget on textile inks and your project will be washable. Place the piece of cardboard inside the t-shirt, under the stencil, so that the paint doesn’t transfer to the back. Take your sponge brush and dab it on the cloud area. Make sure you cover the whole thing. If you’re letting kids do this part, let them have fun while guiding them.

4. Move on to printing the drops. Mix different colors and dab your sponge brush. For lighter colors, you may need two coats of paint. Let the first coat dry before doing the second one.

5. Let the paint dry for at least an hour or so. Gently remove the stencil off of the t-shirt. Your stencil can be re-used a few more times so don’t throw it away!

6. Heat set the design on the fabric. Using your iron in the hottest setting, iron over the printed area for 20-30 seconds. Do not use steam. Wear and enjoy!

My kids are very happy with the results and are proudly saying “I made this”. Now they’re thinking to make them as gifts for all their friends but I’m not so sure about that... Remember to supervise children while doing this project, only adults should do steps. 1. 2. and 6.

Have fun and please share pictures of your April showers tees!

Natasha K.

*on Etsy*

*on Facebook*

The Secret to Successfully Blowing Out an Egg

A couple of weeks ago Leslie from Astor Knot posted a wonderful tutorial on the art of Pysanky. After reading through the tutorial, I was curious to try blowing out eggs as I've never done it before, and after doing it I thought I would share some tips with all of you who might want to try it. 

1. First, I found out that it is easier to blow out an egg that is room temperature rather than one right out of the refrigerator. Leave your carton of eggs out for a couple of hours first. Another thing that I discovered is that fresher eggs from healthier chickens have a stronger shell that is less likely to break, so spend the extra dollar or two to get better eggs.

2. To poke the holes in the eggs, I used a couple of needles, one small sharp one and one slightly larger one. Using the smaller needle, I gently poked one hole in each end. Then I used the larger needle to make one of the holes slightly larger. Then, I used the larger needle to stir up the inside of the egg, piercing the egg yolk and scrambling the inside.

3. The next step is blowing out the inside of the egg. You can do this by just blowing using your mouth, but I used one of those runny nose sucking tools designed for babies that came in a baby medical kit. It's much more fun to use this on an egg than on an infant. In this case, the egg doesn't scream bloody murder and look at you with betrayal. I put the sucker thing on top of the smaller hole, then pressed the bulb to push out the insides of the egg through the larger hole on the bottom. Do this as gently as possible so you don't break the egg. Keep repeating the process until nothing else comes out.
*Note: In this project, I used a whole carton of eggs and ended up dividing the egg innards into separate bowls which I then used to cook and bake with. Thankfully my family enjoys eggs!

4. After the egg blowing portion of the activity, my daughters and I set off to paint and decorate our new eggs! We decided to paint versus dying so we could get brighter colors, but I think we'll also do some egg dying later this week. Don't want to deprive the girls of tradition.

5. I poked some glass head needles into the top of an egg carton for the eggs to rest on while they dried.

6. Finally, we ran some brown grocery bags through the paper shredder for a "nest" and settled the newly decorated eggs in the basket. The great thing about blown out eggs is that will last as long as your kids will handle them carefully. In our household, that is about three minutes, but you may have better luck in your home. Enjoy!

Until next time,

A Potato Stamp Tutorial :: Easter Cards

Easter is almost here! Do you celebrate? Want an easy craft to make part of the fun? When you get tired of dying all those eggs (did you see this post last week? Amazing!) pull out your spuds & have some fun with potato stamping. This is so easy it's criminal.

Here's what you need:
Potatoes (you can get several stamps from one potato, but if you have lots of stampers, a few would be a good idea)
Cutting tools such as: a chef's knife, paring knife - I also found my x-acto to be helpful
A cutting board
Stamp pads in fun Easter colors (found at any craft store)
Also optional a glue pad & glitter (but I recommend them as they were my favorite decoration)
Optional markers or pens to decorate the eggs
Paper to practice on
Paper to stamp on (you could also do this on envelopes!)
Paper towels! (not pictured but essential!!)

Also optional is a bowl of lemon water to leave your stamps in while you aren't using them. It keeps them from turning that red/brown that potatoes turn when they've been left out. Like apples. This didn't take very long so I didn't run into that problem.

**Also a note about the cutting tools: obviously you don't want to give kids a knife, so adults should do the cutting here. I did see one guy who used a plastic knife on his potatoes. Use your judgement on whether that is ok for your small ones. 

Oh, I should mention that I actually washed my potatoes first. Just in case there was any dirt on them, I didn't want it to bleed onto my stamp pad or my project.

Step 1: cut your potato

Make sure that you slice straight down to get a flat surface for stamping or carving.

Depending on the size of your potato, you can make several stamps from one spud. I tried it. The variety was subtle but I liked it. Also, it gave me options for carving a few pieces & leaving other slices as whole "eggs". Multiple slices also give you multiple stamps for multiple hands. Great if you are stamping in company.

Step 2: practice

First, use a paper towel take off any excess water that comes out of your potato. To ink your spud, lightly dab it on the stamp pad just as you would a regular rubber stamp. These pick up plenty of ink.

I never go straight to my nice paper. Always practice your impression. I found it helpful to really push down on the center of the slice for a relatively solid print. After a few stamps, I broke out the markers & decorating accessories to figure out what appealed to me. This also gave me other ideas for shapes to carve in my potatoes.

For the "broken egg" on the right, I used a pen & then my x-acto knife to randomly draw the broken pieces on my stamp. I'm sorry I didn't get a picture of the actual process, but this YouTube video shows a great example of how to get a stamp like this. You just carve away the parts of the potato that you don't want in your design.

Keep practicing until you are satisfied with a few ideas. It's easy to switch colors with potatoes. I just flipped my slice over or you can wipe off any extra ink. Keep those paper towels handy either way. It's easy to get the ink all over you & everything around you. Which is important to look out for in our next step...

Step 3: Move to your card

After a few practice designs, I figured out what I wanted to stamp. A combo of colors & shapes on most of the cards made for a good look. I used the edge of my green pad to make grass for my "eggs" to sit in. Then came the glitter!!! I loved that the most. I stamped the color, then inked the same potato with the glue pad & stamped right over the same place again. Pour the glitter on, excess goes back in the container. Pretty!!!

Step 4: dry & clean up

This might be the best part. Make sure there aren't any little potato pieces on your stamp pads. Close them up.  Pitch the stamps in the trash. DONE! Make sure all your stamps are dry before putting them away or sending them off. Where I overstamped (2 colors over each other) they took about 10 minutes to dry.

Thanks for joining me! I hope you enjoy doing this project. It's SOOO easy. YouTube has tons of great videos on potato stamps if you're interested in other ideas. With different types of inks or paint, you could make napkins, notebooks, tshirts...Let me know what you create with your potato stamps!


How to Make a Checker Set

I've been wanting to make a checkerboard for some time. My older daughter just turned four and is starting to learn how to play games, although we can only do it when my younger daughter (2) is asleep because she likes to collect all the pieces we are playing with and hoard them in her lap. Take a look at the tutorial below, and afterward enjoy the game! (*Note: This tutorial originally posted here.)

How to Make a Checker Set
1. First, make handmade clay by combining 2 cups of flour, 1/2 cup of salt, and 3/4 cup of water in a medium mixing bowl. Stir until combined, then knead for 10-15 minutes.

2. Roll the dough out to about 1/4 inches thick.

3. Using a cookie cutter, cut out 26 pieces (you will need 12 for each side, but we did two extra just in case some get lost under the couch). We made two sets, one with stars and the other with circles. We made the small circular cutter  by cutting a strip of plastic from an old yogurt container and taping into a small loop.

5. Take shapes out and set on baking sheet with the back facing up. Poke a few holes using a toothpick to prevent the pieces from bubbling up.  Bake in the over at 300 degrees until hard, flipping every 20 minutes. It should take about an hour, but it could take longer depending on how thick your pieces are.

6. While baking, make the checkerboard. I used white fabric as the base, cutting two pieces to 17x17 inches. I also made a square of batting at 16x16 inches. On one side of one piece of white fabric, I used a ruler and a fabric pencil to draw out a board. First I drew lines 1/2 inch in on each side, and then used those lines as a starting point to draw 2x2 inch squares. That should give you eight rows of squares across and eight rows of squares up and down; sixty-four squares total. Then I cut out thirty-two 2x2 inch squares of colored fabric. I used my sewing machine to sew the colored fabric in a checkerboard pattern, making sure to line the pieces up with the lines I had drawn. Once I sewed all the squares in place, I put the two white fabrics with right sides facing in (so the fabric squares are facing in toward the other piece of white fabric) and then put the batting on top. I stitched all around the three pieces of fabric (two white pieces of fabric and one piece of batting) using a 1/2 inch seam allowance, leaving a 2 inch gap at the end. I turned the piece inside out so the batting was tucked on the inside and the checkerboard pattern was facing out. I pressed the seams flat, then sewed around the entire board again. 

7. Back to the checker pieces! Once they are out of the oven and cool, paint them using acrylic or poster paints. Paint 12 (or thirteen in our case) in one color and the other 12 in a contrasting color. Kaela painted her round pieces and I painted the star pieces. 

8. Let dry completely.

9. Get ready to play!

I found a useful set of simple checker rules at this website, although I'm sure if you dig around you will find other great resources. Enjoy!

Windows of Agate

Ice Cream! Get Your Ice Cream!

There is nothing better than a nice, delicious, ice cream cone in the summer. Or the autumn. Or really, anytime. Last week, my two daughters and I decided to make fake ice cream to include in our food play; read more to find out how we did it.

My father gave my kids a set of ten shaped hole punchers, which they LOVE... We made plenty of paper punches, some of which we used later in this art project, most of which were eaten by the vacuum cleaner.

Next we cut up egg cartons and painted them in pleasing, ice cream-like colors.

We named the different flavors as we painted twelve of these "ice cream scoops", and added some "sprinkles" from the hole punches. Flavors included strawberry lemony goodness, green flavor with pink cupid sprinkles, and purple grape yum yum.

The ice cream scoops were then set on the windowsill to dry while I cut some manila folders to act as the cones. The dimensions I used were 10 inches at the widest point and 6 inches at the tallest point. Then I wrapped the paper into conical shapes and taped them together. I would suggest that grown ups do this party, since it involves sharp tools.

Phase one complete!

But to be a proper ice cream vendor, you need some place to store your cones where they don't fall over and drip ice cream all over your clothes, so I used this small packing box to create a little stand. I just cut circles into the box for the cones to rest in, and added a little rectangular area to store extra ice cream scoops. Then I poked holes in the side and threaded a ribbon so the girls could wear the box and sell their very delicious ice cream.

We ended up painting the ice cream box using acrylic paints. 

And there you go! Ice cream for all!

Handstamping: A Tutorial

Hello there, New New Blog readers! I'm Kerry - a new contributor here. My Etsy shop is K. Batty Design & Stationery (or & it's filled with personalized stationery, custom invitations, greeting cards & a few other paper products coming soon. Many of the items in my shop are hand stamped so I thought I'd kick off with that - a little tutorial on hand stamping with a simple one-stamp greeting card. Heeeeeeere we go...

Supplies: a CLEAN rubber or polymer stamp, a CLEAN ink pad (not something your toddler has been playing with - you know how they are with the paints...), something to stamp on – for this tutorial, as I said, we’re hand-stamping a card, but you could easily personalize notepads, notebooks, gift tags, address labels…you get what I'm saying. You can purchase any of these things at your local craft or stationery store.

Step 1: Prepare your surface – any flat surface will do. Make sure it’s clean - let’s not get the jelly from your morning toast on your project. I like to stamp on my cutting mat..

Step 2: Placement - Decide a head of time where you’re going to place your design. Line up your clean stamp on your paper until you get a design/placement that you like.

Step 3: Ink up! Lightly dab your stamp around the pad. Check your edges for over inking (places where the ink pools in your design or on the stamping block, like that spot on the right side of my stamp. Oops!).

Step 4: Stamp! Use even pressure on the stamp, particularly in the center if it’s a large stamp like this one. Avoid “mashing” the stamp on the paper – the design will look fuzzy & bloated. Oh! This is why I like using my cutting mat. I use the grid to help line up my stamp on the paper.

Step 5: Let it dry! As you stamp, carefully move your pieces aside to dry. Some colors will dry quickly; others take a while, particularly the metallic inks so be patient. Don't smudge it! Also, some surfaces/papers will absorb ink faster than others. Just leave your project on your work surface while you go on to the next step…

Step 6: Clean up! Cover your ink pads first to help keep them from drying out, ensuring a long life for your stamp pad. Wash your stamps & leave them to dry. Usually, I just wash my stamps with water, especially if I get to the sink as soon as I’ve stamped, but it depends on the ink you’re using. Some of it can be a little stubborn, especially if you have been stamping a lot of pieces.

Ta-da! You have a greeting card (or any other paper-product you can dream up)! All you need is an envelope, which can also be stamped if you want. It’s relatively easy & quick but takes some preparation & practice to do it consistently. If you’re a newbie, definitely practice your impression & alignment on a scrap piece before you move to your stamp surface.

Questions or comments? Leave them here & please do report back on what you create! Happy Stamping!

How to Make Egg Shakers

One of my favorite parts of parenting is inventing strange crafts out of random materials that engage my two kids for the longest amount of time for the least amount of money. The idea for this project came about from broken eggshells. I've been washing and saving eggshells for the last few months to crush and add to my garden as well as to compost. Then I realized that if you keep the two eggs halves they almost fit perfectly back together. Which made me think of the plastic egg shakers that are all the rage during preschool music classes and sing-a-longs. Which made me think what a brilliant idea someone had to make those plastic egg shakers. Which made me think that someone is making a lot of money off of that idea.

And you see how twisted and random my thoughts can be. Sometimes these thoughts turn to something productive, like developing a new hobby (gardening, recycling old clothes into new clothes, composting). Other times... well, let's just say sometimes my time can be better spent sleeping.

Back to the original point of this post, which began with me staring at half broken eggshells and feeling like they could be something more. I loved the way they fit back together after being broken, so I thought we could make real egg shakers minus the plastic. This turned out to be a multi-day process with the drying times factored it, but it was really sort of fun. So here's how to do it.

1. Clean your eggshells thoroughly and lay them out to dry.

2. Fill partially with different dried beans. We used lentils, split peas, and black beans.

3. Apply a thin layer of glue along the rim of the eggshell and fit the other side snugly on top, making sure it matches up perfectly.

4. Let dry for a few hours or overnight.

5. Cut thin strips of newspaper, about .5 inches by 2 inches, for the paper mache. Make a paste from flour and water (boil half a cup of water on the stove and whisk in a heaping tablespoon of flour - simmer lightly for a minute and then let cool). Dip paper in paste or use a paintbrush to apply the paste on the egg and cover the eggs with a few layers of newspaper and paper mache paste.

6. Let dry overnight. (Lay them on the egg cartons and make sure to rotate them so the entire egg dries.)

8. Use poster or acrylic paints to add color to your egg shakers.

9. Do a lesson on color mixing by only starting out with red, yellow, blue and white. Use the egg carton to mix colors (yellow + blue = green, red + blue = purple, red + white = pink, etc). 

10. Paint!

11. Let dry and then let the musicians loose on the shakers! I find the sound of beans on eggshells really soothing and much more pleasant than the plastic variety. Store the egg shakers in the dried out egg carton and also use in food play.

Sailor's Knot Bracelet Tutorial

Last year, the lovely Simone from Groundsel posted this great tutorial on sailor's knot bracelets. This Saturday, June 25th, Simone, Pria, and I will be doing demonstrations and helping visitors make their own bracelets at Governors Island. Please join us at House 6B in Nolan Park at Governors Island from 2pm-4pm. While you're there, be sure to take a look around the Better Than Jam Pop-Up Shop at Governors Island, filled with the best handmade goodies by local artisans. See you there!

Supplies you’ll need:
  • 3.5 yards of twine
  • 14 ounce can for a smaller bracelet or a 20 ounce can for a larger bracelet. Any other round object that has the appropriate circumference for your wrist will do.
1. Wrap one end of the twine around the can to shape an X. Leave about a 4" tail. You will need this tail at the end to finish the bracelet.
2. Wrap the long end of the twine around the can again and bring it up to the middle of the X. Then pass the long end of the twine under the right, upper leg of the X and pull the long end all the way through.

3. Next, move the upper left leg of the X over the right leg of the X to create an oval shape.

4. Pull the long end of the twine through the oval shaped opening you just set up.

5. Turn the can a bit and you will see that the oval shape has created another X shape. Again, pass the long end of the twine under the right upper leg of the X and pull the end through.
6. Repeat steps 3 through 5 until you get to the beginning of your project.
7. You will now find a three-stranded braid. Follow the twine you initially laid out and create a parallel second line. 
8. Continue around the can. If you find that it's getting too tight to pass the twine through the openings, you may want to take the bracelet off the can and continue with the knotting in your hand. If you take it off, be careful not to pull the twine too tight, otherwise your bracelet will shrink on your wrist. 
9. Continue knotting the rope around the bracelet until each strand of the braid has one parallel line — a total of three passes. At this point you can stop or add another three passes to create the traditional pattern of three parallel lines, like the bracelet in the third picture in this step.
10. To finish, just knot the ends together and weave them into the inside of the bracelet.


Gelatin Plastic

I first encountered homemade "gelatin plastic" several years ago when I was looking for relatively easy and definitively inexpensive ways of creating art/craft materials for making gifts. Cash and time were extremely tight so shopping for and buying "real" materials (e.g., air-dry clay) was pretty much out of the question. I was limited to what I could concoct from everyday grocery, hardware-store and office-supply items like Elmer's glue, cornstarch, and in this case, gelatin and food coloring. So I found various recipes and how-to's online and adapted them to suit my particular purposes---most of the projects I found were of the "fun rainy-day activities for kids" variety so it was a matter of maximizing the capabilities of the material to make something that an adult could give another adult without anyone being horribly embarrassed. The following modified how-to for gelatin plastic makes for relatively flat, smooth-edged translucent shapes that you can combine into (or use singly as) cheerful sun-catchers.

  • Three envelopes powdered gelatin
  • 9 tablespoons water
  • Several drops food coloring
  • X-acto knife
  • Flat-bottomed dish (glass is best)
  • Shape templates (optional; not pictured)

Place the water in a saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin on top. Add food coloring and heat on low flame, stirring pretty much constantly until the gelatin is dissolved. Pour the mixture into a flat-bottomed dish and let set---most recipes say for 45 minutes to an hour, but I prefer at least a few hours. The longer set-time makes for less curling as your cut pieces dry.

Once set, cut the gelatin sheet into various shapes and sizes using cardstock templates (if you like) and an X-acto or similar knife---not scissors, as some recipes suggest. Scissors make for a less even edge. Ditto cookie-cutters. The difference becomes obvious once the pieces dry.

I like to leave my cut shapes in the original dish to dry, rather than remove them as most recipes/how-to's instuct. The original adhesion between the gelatin and the surface of the dish seems to help keep the pieces from curling overly much when they're drying. I also like to lightly tape down the edges of my cut pieces to help keep them flat as they dry. I haven't had any luck with the multiple plastic container lids and paper-towel/cheesecloth contraptions that many recipes/tutorials recommend for this purpose. Gelatin is much stronger-willed than that!

Allow your cut pieces to dry for 2-3 days (or more, depending on their thickness), then drill holes for hanging. Most recipes say to make holes for hanging when the pieces are wet, but I think you get a better result if you wait until they're dry. It's hard to predict how large the hole is going to be once the gelatin dries, and the edges can also come out raggedy. Raggedy edges will not do! Embarrassment will ensue!

Hang the pieces on a suction-cup hook and stick on a window. Use fishing line for a "floating-in-air" effect. Wait for the sun to shine through them; be surprised and intensely gratified at how pretty they are!

Until next time --